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Network Communications Input Devices The Internet Wireless Networking Hardware

French Company Building a Mobile Internet Just For Things 35

holy_calamity writes "France now has a dedicated cellular data network just for Internet-of-Things devices, and the company that built it is rolling out the technology elsewhere, says MIT Technology Review. SigFox's network is slower than a conventional cellular data network, but built using technology able to make much longer range links and operate on unlicensed spectrum. Those features are intended to allow the service to be cheap enough for low cost sensors on energy infrastructure and many other places to make sense, something not possible on a network shared with smartphones and other consumer devices."
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French Company Building a Mobile Internet Just For Things

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  • by sgt scrub ( 869860 ) < minus punct> on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @11:31PM (#41976985)

    I'm going to start counting download speeds in 15 bits/sec/hz now so I'll be ready for when it hits Texas.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @11:55PM (#41977085) Journal

    Hmm... Long range, works on unlicensed spectrum, low power and cheap for client devices. How, exactly, are they planning on keeping other people(either competing operators or individuals) from setting up their own gateway hardware and skipping the delightful world of the cellular data plan model and having their every device phoning home to an untrusted 3rd party?

    Do they have some sort of remarkable improvement over current low-power/low-speed RF links(zigbee, bluetooth, and friends) that is patented, proprietary, and only client chipsets are for sale, with base stations remaining in-house? If so, do they seriously plan to avoid the scrap heap of ghastly, non-interoperable unlicensed band RF links? If not, what is the new element that allows them to achieve the impressive range numbers where presently available low power links(especially if the ISM band is noisy) tend to be pretty lousy, and worse if you need to use omnidirectional antennas and deal with buildings and other clutter?

    If they can perform as promised, this seems like it would have to be based on some very neat RF tricks; but I have to wonder what sorts of hobbling they will be doing to maintain their subscriber base on a technology that runs in unlicensed spectrum...

    • by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @12:09AM (#41977129)
      The cute trick is that this technology is extremely slow, as in, low bandwidth, per TFA. We are talking 100 bps. (Not 100 kilobytes per second, but 100 bits per second).

      So, no, nobody is dumping their cellular data plan for this. But for a weather station, or "where is the bus right now?", or burglar alarms, it could be interesting.

      The main "problem" I see is that more expensive, more capable networks (cellular and wifi) are already so pervasive.

      • by TooMuchToDo ( 882796 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @12:48AM (#41977297)

        Right now, you're looking at a couple of bucks per month per device on traditional cellular networks for machine to machine interfaces. If you can pay $1K/month and have all of your devices within 30-50 miles reachable, even if its low-speed, that's a big deal.

      • by lucm ( 889690 )

        The main "problem" I see is that more expensive, more capable networks (cellular and wifi) are already so pervasive.

        Note to self: dump RIM stock!

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) * <mojo@world3.nBLUEet minus berry> on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @04:40AM (#41978253) Homepage Journal

      Companies have been doing this for years so I can tell you exactly how they work. I happen to work on firmware for a product that uses such a network, called HomeRider.

      Each device has an 868MHz proprietary radio link to a repeater, which itself has an 868MHz link back to a "concentrator". The concentrator contains a GPRS modem that reports back data in batches periodically. In that way a large number of devices can use a single GPRS connection, keeping costs down.

      Devices are mostly things like smart meters or network monitoring. The device I make detects leaks on water pipes, for example.

      What these guys seem to be proposing is to put the GPRS modem into each device. We actually do a similar product already, except that it sends SMS text messages because you need less power and can get away with a weaker signal that way. Cost of the data isn't really an issue, which makes me wonder where these guys think the market is. If they are going to go really low speed there will be no advantage of SMS, and if they go higher they won't get the range or keep the cost down.

      • by romiz ( 757548 )
        The company claims it does it differently, with base stations using the ISM band to discuss directly with the devices on the field, and advanced signal processing in the base station to detect those signals.

        They have a pending patent on it, and they call it Forced Statistical FDMA []
  • It even uses the same parts of the spectrum as the well established Zigbee devices that do exactly what's described here.

    • The difference is they traded the speed for range. It's 1000-fold slower than zigbee (0.1 kb/s) but with a bigger range. They say they can cover whole France or California (including unhabited areas) with only 1000 antennas, thus cheaply creating a global network. With zigbee, you can really do only a local network and still need a local relay to internet.
      So, Zigbee allows you to make a fast, fee-less, local sensor network. While this is a global network with yearly fee designed for low-bandwidth sensors.

    • The article doesn't tell you anything about the technology used or what development they've done. So I assume you don't know more than that? Could it possibly be that the concepts sound similar but the implementations are in fact different? Maybe there's more to this than simply claiming it's Zigbee in disguise. Who knows?

  • A sort of internet for slow things. - Which is not as useless as it sounds. If power and water meters could communicate and relay usage information towards the nearest node it wouldn't really matter whether that information gets there in 2 minutes or two hours. Same for appliances sending out error or service codes.

  • by mveloso ( 325617 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @12:30AM (#41977217)

    If you look at T-Mobile's financials, they're doing horribly with consumers. On the embedded side they're growing like crazy.

    Embedded is perfect for 2G/EDGE: low data usage, occasional connections, reliability. T-Mo could become -the- provider for embedded monitoring and make a fortune.

    It's not sexy, but it's profitable. The should buy Orbcomm and go end-to-end.

  • So if I move to France I can FINALLY control my coffee maker and blender from my computer? The boyhood dream born out of a 1977 Radio Shack catalog and the groundbreaking X10 technology to control thngs that don't actually need controlling is made possible by Europen beaurocratic perfection. No wonder so many people suddenly want to move abroad.

    So much for the "it's Obama's fault" theories. LOL

  • Finally my croissant will be able to talk to me when I am not at home!

  • One day, apparently soon, we'll be able to hook up Things [] to The Internet.
  • by fph il quozientatore ( 971015 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @04:37AM (#41978241)
    Must be great for finding exploitable home appliances. When is the last time you updated the firmware on your TV or your fridge? Wouldn't it be great if it were on an open network?
    • Re:Security problems (Score:5, Informative)

      by psergiu ( 67614 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @04:51AM (#41978281)

      Ah, but a firmware update is very easy to install. Just power-cycle or reset the device and push a firmware update OVER-THE-AIR. What could possibly go wrong ? [trollface.jpg]

      Quot from the PDF on their site (emphasys mine):
      4 Bootloader

      The TD1202 module contains an integrated bootloader which allows reflashing the module firmware either over the RX/TX UART connection, or over the air using the built-in RF transceiver.

      The bootloader is automatically activated upon module reset. Once activated, the bootloader will monitor the UART/RF activity for a 200 ms period, and detect an incoming update condition.

      If the update condition is met, the TD1202 will automatically proceed to flash the new firmware with safe retry mechanisms, or falls back to normal operation.

    • Must be great for finding exploitable home appliances. When is the last time you updated the firmware on your TV or your fridge? Wouldn't it be great if it were on an open network?

      I updated the firmware on my Panasonic plasma not long ago, every now and again it asks me just as every other computing device these days does.

  • Surely the greatest thing since Minitel. By the way, how is Quaero coming along?

Experience varies directly with equipment ruined.